Maine Extends Free Community College Program

Students graduating high school in Maine in 2024 and 2025 will now have access to two years of free community college as part of the Pine Tree State's most recent budget.
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Published on July 14, 2023
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  • Maine extended its free community college program to students graduating from high school in 2024 and 2025.
  • The program launched last year and covered tuition for students who graduated between 2020 and 2023.
  • Officials say the program serves both to boost access for students and to combat workforce shortages in high-demand areas across the state.
  • Maine joins dozens of other states in offering some form of free community college.

Maine students who earn a high school diploma or equivalent in the graduating classes of 2024 and 2025 will have two years of free community college as part of the state's new budget.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed the new state budget, including the $15 million free community college provision, into law July 11.

Maine kicked off its free community college program last year with a $20 million investment that offered tuition-free community college to high school students who graduated between 2020 and 2023. Roughly 6,400 students attended free community college during the program's first year, according to a press release from the Maine Community College System.

Mills, who championed the free community college investment, previously said community college "is a powerful tool and my proposal will ensure that high school students most impacted by the pandemic have the opportunity to earn a free college education and enter Maine's workforce with a reliable, good-paying, and in-demand job."

Maine Community College System President David Daigler said in the release that the additional $15 million signed into law by Mills "tells today's high school students that the State of Maine believes in them and is willing to invest in them and their future."

The free community college system will both open doors for students and help the state combat worker shortages in key areas, Daigler said.

"The scholarship means they won't have to work multiple jobs while they study or take just one or two classes at a time because they can't afford more," Daigler said. "They'll have time to focus on learning a trade or becoming a nurse or a police officer or a chef, or pursuing any of the hundreds of degrees or one-year certificates we offer."

The free community college movement has gained steam across the country in recent years, with Maine joining dozens of other states in offering some form of free two-year college to students.

President Joe Biden has also pushed for free community college on the national level, with his budget proposal earlier this year including billions for nationwide free community college, although that hefty price tag isn't likely to make it through Congress.